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I got my first guitar in about 1959 when I was 12...I have been fascinated by them ever since. I have a LOT of guitars now, and I find many of the "cheaper" guitars are my favorites...better playing and great sounding instruments for not a lot of money. I want to pass a little of my experience on this along because I know there are a lot of guitar players here and some of us are financially challenged, but want a good instrument.

My suggestions for good acoustic steel string guitars at low prices - Yamaha, especially the FG series, 6 and 12 string. They are solid wood, not laminate. Solid wood guitars sound more alive, and the wood does improve  with age and use...the sound vibrations actually change the characteristics of the wood, and mellows the tone. Yamaha FG guitars can be found used or refurbished for very little money - I have 2, bought for my late wife and myself as christmas gifts almost 10 years ago, still with no problems at all They are made with spruce tops and sides and back of NATO, a type of rosewood, and they play very well and sound great - loud,  and very good tone. I still have both of them, and they have had a truss rod adjustment and new strings every so often, but that's all. We got these refurbished for about $30 each. I have seen these sell at yard sales for $15 - $20, and there are lots of them on ebay for $40-$60. I have yet to play a BAD Yamaha acoustic guitar, but it's best to buy one you can play. Sometimes that is just not possible and ebay generally will support return for refunds if it should be needed.

My second recommendation would be any recent - Late 1990's on - Epiphone.
 I just discovered how GREAT these guitars are...they are also solid wood...Here's my 2006 Epiphone Masterbilt, a jumbo flat top, spruce top with maple back and sides...a beautiful player...Epiphones have different bracing from their parent Gibson
s guitars, and a distinct tone...I have played a '60's Gibson Jumbo over the last 20 years, and I have to say I prefer the Epiphones - at 1/8th the original price - for playability and tone.

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Epiphone has discontinued a lot of their acoustic models, and there are some fine used Epi's around at very good prices. I have not played their low end models, but they are available used for around $100 and I know many very happy Epiphone owners...I have 3 Epiphone acoustics now, and love them.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Seagulls are amazing... (4+ / 0-)

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 03:24:49 AM PST

  •  My $60 yard sale Yamaha acoustic (5+ / 0-)

    was appropriated by my nephew and his girlfriend has now painted it into a really psychedelic work of art. Damm kids!
    (Actually, she's quite talented, it's beautiful and painting hasn't hurt the sound. She did ask first, too, so I have nothing to complain about.)

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 04:35:37 AM PST

  •  Ovations are really good... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crashing Vor, Timaeus, post rational

    ...if you need a salad bowl ;-)

    It really all depends on what you mean by affordable. My personal creed when it comes to guitars is that name brand and price doesn't matter when it comes to the guitar that's right for you... When you find the one you know is right for you, you do all you can to make it yours. On the electric side, Epiphone makes many models, especially late 90's-early 00's, that are virtually indistinguishable when played side-by-side with their Gibson cousins. The same can be said with late-80's higher model Squires vis-a-vis Fender Stratocasters.

    Acoustic guitar-wise, I'd say the best bet is "old". Most everything new is crap unless you spend thousands. There are actually some good Chinese companies that are ripping off vintage American design aesthetic, but you're still looking at $1500 to start on the ones I'd consider quality. But you HAVE to play the guitar before you buy it; some are fantastic, and some aren't fit to be firewood. (As a former advocate for a performance rights organization, I have extremely mixed feelings when it comes to those companies, though.) I sat in on a lot of interesting sessions and seminars, and I heard at one that the best time to buy used gear is in April, when people get tax refunds and look to sell the old gear they have. So when I'm looking to expand my collection, I start scanning the online and local ads (and music store bulletin boards) in March/April. Christmas time/ Black Friday and around the product close out cycles is when to shoot for when looking at buying something new.

    If you're going new, the Yamaha FG 700 really is a quality inexpensive-type guitar, or a guitar that you can spend $200 and feel good about. I bought one for one of my kids, and it's been a good buy. I bought a Takamine (e series I think?) for another, which was like throwing money down the drain. The binding on the neck cracked, the neck itself had issues, the ribs came unglued, several frets had issues, and the tuning mechanisms were so cheap that they eventually had one freeze... and that was with taking the damn thing to the tech for tune-ups every few months.

    No, you can't fix stupid. You OUTNUMBER stupid. -Wildthumb, 1/10/2013

    by newinfluence on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 06:45:32 AM PST

  •  You're making me feel old. (5+ / 0-)

    You got me thinking about my Yamaha FG 331. I guess it's pushing 40 years old. I don't even know for sure. No repairs at all. Do I have anything else in my life from the 70s? I don't think so. Oh the places it's been. I don't know how it survived. I don't know how I survived.

    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.

    by PowWowPollock on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 06:51:26 AM PST

  •  In the 70s, Yamaha didn't know (4+ / 0-)

    that you could make cheap guitars from cheap wood. The 6s and 12s from that era stand up against any Gibson. Yes also to Epiphones.

    My personal faves are Silvertones, Even the crap from the middle era is great for slide work. The newer ones (no idea who has the franchise now) are decent playable instruments at rock bottom prices. My last one was free with ten packs of strings from Guitar Center. Saw the ad and said, "Well, you gotta have strings. How can you go wrong with a free guitar?" It's a fine dreadnought with a decent tone.

    People tell me my old Sears-era electric with the amp in case is worth a lot of money now. Well, it's worth it to me, for sure.

    I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

    by Crashing Vor on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 07:00:05 AM PST

    •  Since we're guitar geeking, here's a tip. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Timaeus, USHomeopath, old mark, YellerDog

      The best way to "age" a guitar's tone is to lean the headstock up against a speaker when you're not playing it and play Segovia, Doc Watson, etc. It's vibrations that "age" the instrument more than time.

      I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

      by Crashing Vor on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 07:03:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh I do hope your tongue (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Crashing Vor

        was firmly planted in your cheek when you typed that. Not only will the vibration age the instrument, but SPECIFIC vibrations, eh?

        •  And sleep with the sheet music under your pillow (0+ / 0-)

          You'll wake up a veritable Edgar Casey.

          The best way to age a guitar is to play it, for anyone, any time.  The appreciative audience sends positive vibes into the instrument...

          Courtesy is owed. Respect is earned. Love is given. (Unknown author, found in Guide to Texas Etiquette by Kinky Friedman)

          by marykmusic on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 10:06:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  "The best way to age a guitar is to play it," (0+ / 0-)

            and keep it a long time, and play it, and keep it a long time...and the next thing you know, you both are "aged", and hopefully for the better.
            I've had one good guitar since Aug. of '98 and I wouldn't dream of leaning it against a speaker.

        •  I'm guessing that Crashing Vor is right (0+ / 0-)

          The vibrations you want to play are those from an acoustic guitar. Not the humming of your refrigerator motor, for example.

          working for a world that works for everyone ...

          by USHomeopath on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 10:12:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I will never lean a guitar against anything, (0+ / 0-)

        ever since I saw a Les Paul fall off a guitar stand on stage in the middle of a performance. Broke the headstock right off.

        Mine are either being played or in their case...no leaning or stands for me.

        Anger management class really pissed me off.

        by old mark on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 01:19:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  They have transcended from being guitars (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Crashing Vor

      to being "collectables" since Jimmy Page played a Danelectro on stage...they have even been reproduced and the NEWER ones sell for $300 or so...

      Anger management class really pissed me off.

      by old mark on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 01:14:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is one of the old Sears models. (0+ / 0-)

        The amp is actually very good. It's one of the things I drag into every session when I'm called on to produce somebody, and it always ends up being used on one cut or another. Still got original tubes except for the vibrato circuit, which had to be replaced with Sovtek.

        I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

        by Crashing Vor on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 01:58:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I've gone the other way (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Timaeus, SanFernandoValleyMom

    Recently bought two expensive guitars (Collings SJ and Guild F-512) and love them. However, for years I played a $200 Alvarez acoustic dreadnought copy...very nice indeed!

  •  My main guitar for years was a 1972 Yamaha FG (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SanFernandoValleyMom, old mark

    dreadnought.  Very loud, strong tone.

    Guilds are also great.

  •  I've had my Ovation for 20+ years (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SanFernandoValleyMom, terrybuck

    And I would take it against just about any lower-end acoustic on the market, and some of the higher-end ones too.  I get a warm sound out of it which can compare with any all-wood guitar.  And since I only paid $99 for it back then, I'd say it's more than lived up to its value. :)

  •  For me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrybuck

    my better guitar is an Ibanez my wife bought me years ago - a friend knocked it over and it got a crack that gave it a buzz in it, but I took it to a wonderful little shop in Astoria, Oregon called Thompson's Instrument Repair.  He fixed up the crack and new Grover tuners for under $100. It's a great place to go if you can.

    My other guitar is an old Fender acoustic from the early 1980's, I bought it used for $50. It always played ok - and was straight enough, but it never had the rich deep bass tone or sounded as good as the Ibanez.

    It's not too often I play electric, but I have one, the name is "Silvertone" although I doubt it has any connection to original Silvertone. It's a newer SG copy, black and came with a small fender amp I have hooked up to an older speaker cabinet. I paid $75 for the combo used.

    Also have an old catalog mandolin from the 1920's that was my Grandfathers. I got .. well for free but had it redone again at Thompson's. Not a lot of value - it's probably worth less that $200 but to me it's priceless.

    A friend collects Martin's and just loves them - but it's a hobby/passion he can afford. Recently he had one of his guitars redone, new frets etc .... for $675. When he told me I gulped, that's more than I have spent on musical instruments and equipment in my life.

    I can also recommend Gerlitzs polish - Ernie Ball Earthwood acoustic strings. (the earthwood strings are more like what the Martin strings used to be like) and my tuner is a eNote, it works great, very sturdy and tunes mandolins and guitars etc

    Recently I also added my own pickup to the Ibenez for less that $10 by getting the jack and a piezo buzzer from Radio Shack and getting that attached inside. There's links on how to do that on YouTube. Search "add guitar pickup to acoustic" etc.

  •  I've got Gibsons and Fenders, but these ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZappoDave, old mark

    ...Danelectro reissues are good and cheap..IMG_0162

  •  I play banjo. A few years ago, my brother (0+ / 0-)

    was looking to get a banjo for his son, and asked my advice.  I made up a list of "starter" banjos for him, and gave him some pros and cons of each.  Many sound tinny, have cheap components, poor finish... etc.  But, he wasn't sure his son was going to stick with it, so he didn't want to spend a lot of money to start with, so I tried to help him the best I could.

    He ignored everything I told him, and got an Epiphone banjo.  I had overlooked it...it was right in the same price range as the other banjos I had listed.  A month or so later, I got to visit, and show my nephew how to play (he was way ahead of me on that one), and got to play the Epiphone myself.  I was very impressed...good fit and finish, nice would, good action, playability, and it sounded good!  I would recommend it to anyone looking to get started, and am pleased to hear that they make nice guitars, too.

    "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

    by Bisbonian on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 11:33:29 AM PST

  •  Yamaha Guitars Are So Underrated (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    old mark, SamBrown

    I have a Yamaha F-335 acoustic that I paid $100 and it sounds and plays great. My first good electric was a Yamaha AEX-502 semi-hollowbody with P-90 pickups. I played that guitar in so many bands in the studio and live that the frets are all worn and I have to have them replaced. I have a lot more expensive guitars now but that Yamaha will always be my favorite. Very underrated guitars.

  •  Steve Earle said in "Guitar Town": (0+ / 0-)

    "Everybody told me you can't get far
    On thirty-seven dollars and a jap guitar
    Now I'm smokin' into Texas with the hammer down
    And a rockin' little combo from the Guitar Town "

    I had a nice Yamaha acoustic in the 80's, but someone stole it along with my Dobro...............got another Dobro, but have never replaced the Yamaha since we have a couple of other decent guitars.

    "Its always better to be shot from a cannon than squeezed from a tube" Hunter S. Thompson

    by hooktool on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 04:59:29 PM PST

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